The Divestment Conference at Georgetown
By Lee Kaplan | March 17, 2006

It’s been two weeks since the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) held its Fifth Annual Divestment Conference at Georgetown University.  A few articles have briefly discussed some of the seminars at the conference and what outwardly occurred there. But the major thing missing in all these reports -- that this article will reveal -- was the importance of what occurred behind the scenes just before, after and during the Georgetown divestment conference that really shows the current state of the ISM as a movement on US campuses.

But before doing that, a little history is in order:


Three years ago, I went undercover to my first ISM conference at Ohio State on behalf of Front Page Magazine.  I had to pass myself off as a leftist journalist working for Indymedia, the leftist “alternative news website” that the ISM frequently uses. It was my conviction then that the only way to determine what goes on inside these conferences is to attend their strategy sessions and other meetings as though I were one of the activists.  At Ohio State, I had a chance to interview Adam Shapiro, a founder of the ISM, and to listen to, and observe the other major players of the ISM in action. It was Shapiro himself who told me the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) is merely the name used by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the United States. I was working entirely alone then in the United States with some help from David Bedein, my colleague in Jerusalem, who tracked the ISM from there.


The result of that first infiltration revealed enough information for me to go undercover yet again to one of their training sessions in Northern California. I had to do a complete makeover of my appearance because I was known by that point, disguising myself as a Pakistani by dyeing my hair, coloring my skin and changing my appearance.  The outcome of that foray led to ten of the ISM “volunteers” being deported from Israel, one whose case went through the Israeli Supreme Court before she was finally kicked out.


Now armed with information, David Bedein and I subsequently got over 200 ISM “volunteers” deported or turned back from Israel. Even the Israeli government that for a while regarded the ISM as some type of fringe “leftist” group of starry-eyed “peace activists” began to see what it really is: an arm of the PLO allied and supported by U.S. anarchists and communists bent on Israel’s destruction and, in the long term, that of the United States also. Nevertheless, here in the United States, I was still working alone, aided, of course, by David Bedein over 10,000 miles away.


A year later the ISM conference was back at Duke University. This time I vowed to get more information and determine ways to fight this subversive group by trying to get more Jewish supporters of Israel not only to protest outside in the cold as in the past, but to go inside as I had done at the previous Ohio conference. I had already revealed that the ISM was already doing its own undercover activities in the US among Jewish organizations by drafting American anarchists of Jewish descent and even some expatriate Israelis to pose as “peace activists” and infiltrate Jewish organizations in America, the goal being to drive a wedge between the constant support given by American Jews for Israel. I revealed how the Birthright program, funded by Jewish philanthropists to send young Jews to Israel for an appreciation of the country, was being craftily used by the ISM to get American anarchists over to the Holy Land for free to work on behalf of the PLO.


My methods of going undercover and taking notes and photographs with hidden equipment were unorthodox. But I was inspired and personally driven by the murder of two small Israeli children, Danielle Shefi  5, and Gal Eisenman, also 5, murdered by the PLO terrorists, the kind of PLO terrorists the ISM works to shield and aid over in the West Bank.


Believe it or not, when I tried to get mainstream Jewish organizations to cooperate with me by doing the same actions, not only were some reluctant to cooperate, but they even sent out emails urging others not to cooperate with me. In addition, everything was regarded as an academic discussion on US campuses, even murdering Israeli children.


The usual response from most mainstream organizations (and still is in the case of some pro-Israel groups like Hillel) was to ignore the goings on at ISM divestment conferences in favor of “educational forums” that mostly only Jews attend. Part of this problem was the misperception by mainstream Jewish organizations that the ISM divestment conferences are merely exercises in “freedom of speech” like they claim to be, when they are actually “training and strategy sessions” to gather people whose purpose is to destroy Israel and, by extension, to attack the Jewish community in America and marginalize it to achieve the goals of the PLO. The anarchist wing of the movement also relies on supporting the Ba’ath Party, the PLO’s number one ally, in trying to diminish support for the War in Iraq here at home.


The ISM grew in strength by the time of the Duke Conference. At Duke University, one of the top campus administrators was actually working with them, not as an impartial host to the group, but as an active and avid supporter of their efforts.  Evidence of this administrator’s bias was the manner he allowed the ISM to control the content on the University’s website denying the ISM’s past anti-Semitism and support for terrorism and terrorist groups at previous conferences.  The administration even tried to claim there was no link between the ISM and PSM and that they were separate entities, because the ISM over in Israel had already been linked to at least one bombing and other instances of assisting terrorist groups.  This was the image they presented to the public; it was just another “free speech” conference, while, all the time, the ISM sought to gather more recruits and train people for direct actions against Israeli soldiers fighting terrorism abroad.


Another link that began to emerge was how Saudi funding to US campuses also could smooth the way for the ISM by getting campus administrators to look the other way at a group that advocated anti-Semitism and subversion even against the United States despite all evidence. Duke was the recipient of huge amounts of Saudi donations in the past, Saudi donations that the Duke administrator who covered for the ISM incredibly said he knew absolutely nothing about.


The ISM grew cocky at Duke. ISM leader and activist at Duke, Rann Bar-On, claimed the group he headed calling itself the PSM was not the ISM.  Mazen Qumsiyeh, a speaker at the conference, felt confident enough to call Jews living in Israel “a disease” and advocating their deportation. Abe Greenhouse, an anarchist of Jewish descent, taught a seminar outlining every Jewish organization in America to infiltrate or boycott, while Ora Wise, another anarchist of Jewish descent, taught how to get into inner city classrooms with black and Latino children to teach them how to hate Israel’s Jews.


None of this information would have been available if some Jewish activists had not decided to follow my lead and actually go inside the divestment conference. Nevertheless, the ISM was riding high, the Duke administration praised the event and the college even today is serving as a recruiting base from where ISM volunteers are recruited to assist terrorist groups.


But Duke is an anomaly, because the exposure of what really went on inside these conferences was having an effect elsewhere because ISM recruitments began to dwindle. It was determined at the Duke Conference in 2004 to hold the next 2005 yearly conference at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the home base for Fayyad Sbaihat, the former chief spokesman for the PSM/ISM in the USA and some of his lieutenants like Mohammed Abed and Nabil Abufhara of the Alternative Palestinian Agenda. That conference never happened. The reason most likely was the Chancellor of U Wisconsin at Madison, John Duncan Wiley, who was appointed to a special FBI commission of college presidents to take a hard look at how U.S. campuses were being used by our enemies in the War on Terror. In all likelihood, Wiley did not feel comfortable hosting an event for an organization that behind closed doors advocates for terrorist groups and refuses to condemn terrorism in its popular slogans.


Despite the ISM’s cozy relationship with the Duke administration at the 2004 conference, that campus had endured enough flack from the alumni and media not to want too much repeat exposure with the ISM and now other colleges like Wisconsin were leery.  Another college location was needed and fast, especially since 2005 had no yearly divestment conference at all.


Georgetown was perfect for the ISM’s national training conference. Its prominent Middle East studies professor, John Esposito, was funded by a wealthy Palestinian benefactor and had sway on campus. But more than that, Georgetown just received a $20 million dollar grant from Alwaleed Bin Talal, the Saudi philanthropist to whom Rudy Giuliani handed back a $10 million check after 9/11. Bin Talal also funds Hamas.


The omnipresent Saudis were in the background at Georgetown just as they were at Duke University. Georgetown President John DeGioia emulated his administrative peers at Duke by disingenuously describing Bin Talal as “just a philanthropist” to a Georgetown student who asked him why the campus would accept money from a Hamas financier.


Georgetown’s own policy regarding free speech and expression was thrown out the window by the Washington-based college’s administration to facilitate a fifth annual conference for the ISM, a policy that would have precluded such an event based on its ethnic attacks on Jews in America and abroad, as well as advocacy for a boycott of Israel that is illegal by US law.


Just before the Georgetown conference, the Palestine solidarity website boasted that one training seminar would now include as guest speaker a Dean from a mid-west college who would teach how to get college administrators to become a part of the ISM. Clearly this had been done at Duke, and the Georgetown administration would also prove to be more than an impartial host when the conference began in 2006, as I will be shown. The seminar apparently never took place and the announcement was removed from the conference’s website when I began writing about it before the actual conference itself.


But Georgetown ultimately embarrassed itself by its conduct at the Fifth Annual Divestment Conference last February, because the administration’s collusion with the PSM/ISM would manifest itself in many ways—this time including violence. And the ISM showed, despite its putting up a good façade, that it is losing ground in America, although I must admit they are only down but not out. Hopefully the revelations in this article will help to take them off of US campuses for good.


The Georgetown conference had several new things going against it this year as it strived to bounce back after the Wisconsin cancellation. For starters, some Jewish organizations in America finally began to wake up and proactively meet this subversive movement head on. Hillel did very little as usual. One of its student leaders praised the PSM conference and welcomed the PSM conference to Georgetown as an example of “freedom of speech” parroting the campus administration. In fact, Hillel does not understand that these conferences are not academic exercises that discuss mere ideas, but are, in fact, training events to subvert a democratic ally of the US and destroy it as a prelude eventually to going after the US government itself.


Israel is the canary in the mine for the American Anarchist Movement as was so aptly explained by Abe Greenhouse, an ISM leader at the Duke University conference. Hillel operates as an adjunct part of campuses across America and operates like a business, so it does not want to tick off college administrators who can remove on-campus privileges. It is doubtful it will ever take a proactive approach to the ISM on US college campuses.


But other Jewish groups for the first time began to see what the Georgetown conference really was: an attack on Jews worldwide and the means by which to train others to assist in that attack. One such group was the Jewish Defense League. I thought the JDL no longer existed after the deaths of  Meir Kahane, Irv Rubin and Earl Kruegel.  Apparently the group resurrected itself again, this time as a pro-active Jewish support organization. The JDL stepped up to the plate at Georgetown apparently advising the administration that its membership intended to be present at an event designed to harm Jews.


The JDL was not alone, however. In New York, some Russian Jewish groups, ex-Soviet Jews who had known persecution in their former homeland as Jews also organized with the help of the JDL. At least three busloads of Jews came from as far away as New York to protest openly the event. Georgetown reacted to this by barring the entrance to the “open dialogue” event to many Jews who attempted to go in and register. Some America Jews were literally barred from attending an event that Georgetown touted as preserving American values of free speech and open dialogue.


Still more young Jews showed up from George Washington University to loudly protest an event that they understood the true purpose of: the boycotting and divestment of Jews elsewhere in the world to starve them out or kill them.


Members of my Stop the ISM group also attended undercover. And even one Jewish activist group from the west coast that at one time discouraged Jews to go in and spy on the proceedings was now present as well inside gathering information.


And Christians who support Israel also showed up which was one of the most important things, since the Georgetown conference would take a new tack for the ISM: recruiting churches in America to boycott Israel. The Walid Shoebat Foundation brought Tariq Hamid, a former Al Qaeda  #2 man under Ayman al-Zawahiri to the GU campus to speak out against Muslim persecution of Jews and women and the misuse of the Koran. When Hamid spoke of the right for Jews to live in peace in the Middle East as something that should no longer be opposed by Muslims, the campus Students for Justice in Palestine, the divestment conference sponsors, walked out on him. But other Georgetown students who attended that evening and had been earlier subjected to relentless campaigns against America and Israel on campus perked up their ears and listened attentively, giving Hamid a standing ovation.


The presence of these people, Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel, served to reveal the true nature behind an event that was trying to pass itself off as just another academic conference. And one thing that also happened was Georgetown was forced to show its hand as administrative staff became enforcers for the ISM far more abusive and physically violent than any of the ISM attendees or organizers themselves. The collusion between the campus administration and the ISM organizers was more than apparent.


I had appeared on the Fox cable news show the O’Reilly Factor just a week prior to the Georgetown divestment conference opposite Dr. Daniel Porterfield, the Vice President for Public Affairs at GU, to clarify for most Americans what the ISM really is. The interview was short and sweet, with about three minutes given to each side. Porterfield made it a point to claim that Georgetown had contacted homeland security, the FBI and other US security agencies that allegedly had told him that the Palestine Solidarity Movement was in no way connected to terrorist groups. The truth is, US intelligence agencies would never tell someone who is or who is not involved with terrorist groups; the best these agencies might do is say they cannot find them on a terrorist watchlist.


After the broadcast, Fadi Kiblawi, one of the key organizers of the Georgetown conference, put on his own website a claim that he had spoken to O’Reilly’s producers and convinced them I was a liar, causing them to edit down my appearance on the show to the three minutes I received. Since I knew the interview was not edited as Kiblawi claimed, I asked the producer if he had even spoken to Kiblawi prior to airing and he explained he had not.  The importance of this is it shows the level of lying and deception that marks the ISM leadership and its acolytes, a group that uses the motto “by any means necessary” to attack Israel and Jews. In three minutes on national television, I exposed a subversive organization that had been operating since 2001 posing as something it definitely was not: a peace organization seeking an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


When I arrived at Georgetown for the conference a week later, my first experience was going through a metal detector doorframe like at the airport, a security guard then wanding my body. I asked if they were looking for weapons, but the guard replied, “no, only cameras and recorders.” This has been standard operating procedure for the PSM/ISM for the last five years; metal detectors are used to prevent anyone from recording or photographing anything inside except what the ISM wants the media to photograph or record. The Georgetown administration was perfectly comfortable with this process even as they claimed the event was open and above board with access to the public and open discussion being the order of the day.


Once inside, I attended the opening press conference given by Nadeem Muaddi, the new national spokesman for the PSM/ISM who was replacing Fayyad Sbaihat of U Wisconsin Madison in that role. Muaddi is a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. Prior to the conference, Stop the ISM had received emails from someone named Chaim Sugarman who claimed to be Jewish and an avid supporter of the Divestment Conference and urged not to say negative things about it. Stop the ISM’s IT guy did some tracing on the IP address of Chaim Sugarman, which led us to Nadeem Muaddi’s home address where he lives with his parents.


As the conference began, Muaddi praised the Georgetown venue in Washington DC as a “place where society could build on previous conferences having been successful that had advocated divestment since 2001.” He continued, “The PSM Conference is a force to be reckoned with as a part of American social affairs” and tried to equate the differences between Israelis and Palestinians as the same as in apartheid South Africa.  He declared that checkpoints and the Security Fence set up to protect Israeli citizens from suicide bombings and terrorist attacks were apartheid actions that “separated Palestinian from Palestinian” rather than Israeli citizens, including Palestinian Israeli-Arabs, from terrorists and terrorism. He boasted that faculty bodies of the University of Wisconsin and Washington University had voted in favor of divestment while conveniently ignoring that such votes were non-binding and that neither university had, in fact, done any real divestment from Israel of any kind.


Muaddi then went on to announce enthusiastically that “Just 12 days ago, the Anglican Church in Great Britain voted to divest from Israel” and that this was “building a momentum to join the Palestinian people” until divestment against Israel would eventually become a US national movement. His co-chair, Diane Hamid from the Georgetown chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine, then chimed in about how the “goal of the conference calls into the political and cultural life of the values we are committed to as Catholic leaders” by calling for divestment from Israel and then claimed that the “apartheid wall” was “suffocating Bethlehem” and was the reason the Christian population in that region was leaving.


That the leadership of the Christian population in the West Bank has repeatedly stated to the Pope that Muslim persecution is driving their population out was not mentioned. Even the new Hamas government’s talking about reinstituting an Islamic poll tax on Christians played no part in her lament of Christian flight; it was all the fault of the Jews. She urged “Catholic recognition of human rights as fundamental, a moral imperative that Israel not continue such racist practices” and even accused Israel of wanting “the land but not the natives.”


Was it possible she did not know that 70% of the Palestinian Authority’s budget is paid for by Israel that also provides all the water and electrical grid to the Palestinian people, a population that has increased during the “peace process,” or that Israeli-Arabs consistently prefer to remain citizens of Israel rather than a new state of Palestine?


It is important to note here that her statement of Catholic obligations to support divestment from Israel almost had an official ring of endorsement by Georgetown itself at the press conference. Whereas Georgetown, founded by Jesuits, had always tried to claim it was merely hosting an event on campus the same as for any other campus club, the press packets, brochures and even press and entry badges all contained Georgetown’s official logo and name on them. Past conferences did not have the official campus names on documents. In other words, this was a Georgetown endorsed event according to all documents passed out. I was to learn just how seriously Georgetown took this official stance inside the conference as the day wore on despite an earlier claim by GU’s President John DeGioia that Georgetown was not in favor of divestment from Israel “today.”


When the floor opened to reporters, I asked a three part question: First, were the organizers aware that Fayyad Sbaihat’s brothers Laith and Mohammed were known terrorists in the Popular Front for the Liberation for Palestine?  Second, why had Nadeem Muaddi posed on the Web as a Jewish man named Chaim Sugarman to praise the conference among Jewish groups? Finally, were the organizers aware that the Palestine Authority has on its books a law making it a death sentence to sell land to a Jew and that the Hamas charter specifies that all Jews must be expelled from all of Israel?


Muaddi began to dissemble. Perhaps he did not realize who I was because he said, “The only one who has said Fayyad Sbaihat’s brothers are terrorists in the PFLP is Lee Kaplan,” to which I replied, “The information has been confirmed by Avi Dichter, the former head of Israel’s security services.” But before I could complete the sentence, I was loudly interrupted by the campus public relations spokesman, Eric Smulson, who shouted me down with a verbal warning that I would be physically ejected for following up on my questions.


Next Muaddi denied having posed as Chaim Sugarman on the Internet, but when I offered to show him his own IP address logins, Smulson interrupted me by shouting me down and threatening to have me removed again. When Muaddi addressed the issue of a death sentence to sell land to a Jew, he simply diverted the question by saying we were there only to discuss mistreatment of Palestinians by Israelis and went into a pitch saying “Every year it [the divestment movement] has grown. The Green Party supported it, the National Lawyers Guild supported it, it has grown into an international movement and now much of the US is behind it. Over 100 universities around the US from MIT to Harvard have divestment programs on their campuses.”


When nobody else raised a hand, I raised mine again to ask a question: “Are you aware that the divestment campaign has not succeeded? That out of all the campuses in the US over a five-year period only U Wisconsin and Wayne State managed to support divestment through non-binding resolutions and that only a miniscule number of stocks has ever been divested, if any at all, and that the whole divestment campaign has in fact been a bust?” I continued, “30% of the children and the elderly go to bed hungry at night in Israel due to divestment and the illegal Arab League boycott.”


Muaddi replied, “Our divestment programs are not illegal.” But when I replied that aiding the Arab boycott of Israel is illegal, Eric Smulson threatened me yet again by saying “I am giving you a warning, sir, for speaking up.” Smulson was clearly a man on a mission not to allow any follow up questions that might disprove allegations from the Conference spokespeople, no matter how big the lie might be at this “open dialogue forum.”


Muaddi continued by answering a question from a Jerusalem Post reporter about the PSM connections to left wing peace groups in Israel. Muaddi claimed the PSM was not part of any governmental organization and that its support for divestment was “sweeping the world” despite its own website stating clearly it is “Palestinian-led” and subject to the will of the PLO  even on issues of terrorism against Israeli civilians.  He repeated the canard that the ISM is a separate movement from the PSM.


I raised my hand and replied, “The International Solidarity Movement is not a separate movement. I have a recording of its founder, Adam Shapiro, at the Ohio State conference, stating the PSM and ISM are the same organization. All are funded through Middle East Children’s Alliance in Berkeley. The Palsolidarity website says to make donations out to ISM USA and attending groups at this conference are named ISM-New York, ISM Washington and Norcal ISM.” I concluded. “The ISM has been linked to terrorism and that is why you do want the affiliation recognized.”


Smulson shouted at me a “last warning” to have me physically ejected and with that the conference was abruptly ended.


I next moved to the main meeting at Gaston Hall where four of the conference’s leaders were on a stage being “monitored” by Todd Olson, Georgetown’s executive responsible for student affairs.  I had just settled into a seat in the first row when I was approached by Mrs. Adam Shapiro, a co-founder of the ISM herself, Huwaida Arraf.


Huwaida greeted me: “Mr. Kaplan, I understand you think I’m a terrorist.” I replied, “No, Huwaida, I never said you were a terrorist in my articles, just a terrorist supporter and enabler.”


Huwaida knew that I had a tape recording of her saying at the previous Duke Conference that the ISM works willingly in cooperation with terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the PFLP. She confirmed this when she wrote a letter to the Washington Post just days earlier that was subsequently printed in which she admitted again working with such groups, but claiming that because she considers herself nonviolent that it is ok to do so.


She can say anything she wants about being nonviolent, but she and her followers in the ISM have confirmed they function as human shields for Palestinians who engage in terrorism. The Patriot Act is clear about not lending logistical or any other type of aid to any terrorist group. That’s enough to get her indicted if only Homeland Security would do its job. She repeated in front of me again that she works with these terrorist groups “nonviolently,” then complained that as a “Palestinian” with Israeli citizenship through her father she could not “go back to the village she came from.”


“But, Huwaida,” I replied. “You were born in the United States. Besides, Arab-Israelis have equal civil rights by law in Israel and you know it.”  Stunned at my reply showing I knew her real history, she said, “As an Arab I am discriminated against whenever I go to Israel.”  I replied, “Huwaida you go in and out of Israel constantly for the ISM urging the end of Israel, so your claims of discrimination are just not true.” Suddenly, she had to dash away.


The first guest speaker to then take the floor was Noura Erekat. Noura it seems is a professional law student at UC Berkeley and the niece of Arafat’s former second-in-command, Saeb Erekat. Saeb Erekat has not been in the news much lately because of his penchant for lying to the media about Israel. He was the one who claimed that the village of Jenin was completely wiped out by the Israeli army with over 500 Palestinian civilians killed when only a small area was destroyed. The death toll, even according to the PA, was only 56 killed of which 48 were armed combatants. Saeb never misses a chance to lie to the media about Israel, such as claiming just before the Disengagement that Gaza is the most densely populated area in the world when its density is no worse than the city of San Francisco.


Just days before the conference, Stop the ISM intercepted an email from Noura in which she put out a call for legal groups to mount an international legal campaign against Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian land.” In that document, she made it a point to footnote the fact that by Palestinian land she meant all of Israel, even within the UN mandated 1948 borders, hardly an attempt to use the courts to adjudicate a settlement but rather to make war to annihilate the Jewish state.


Apparently, Noura learned the art of telling lies and speaking in ellipses well from her famous uncle. She railed for nearly an hour against Israel, at first lamenting that the divestment program against Israel had largely been a failure on US campuses, but that the movement to dismantle South Africa had also seemed almost lost but then was resurrected and ultimately successful. The fact that Israel is not an apartheid state being the real reason the divestment scheme is failing did not deter Noura. The professional law student at UC Berkeley began mentioning her plans of litigating Israel to death in the International Courts in the Hague in alliance with such Stalinist legal groups as the National Lawyers Guild.


Noura cited UN Resolution 3068 that dealt with South African apartheid, not Israel. Calling Israel’s actions a “crime against humanity,” she stated the resolution precluded “domination of one racial group over another” and cited a list of violations she accused Israel of making, including  “dividing the population by racial lines.”


She missed pointing out that the Palestinian Authority institutes Sharia Law that do